Neuropsychological test performance in illiterate subjects

Arch Clin Neuropsychol. 1998 Oct;13(7):645-60. doi: 10.1093/arclin/13.7.645.


The purpose of this study was to further analyze the effects of education across different age ranges on neuropsychological test performance. Two different analyses were performed. The first analysis was conducted in order to pinpoint the impact of school attendance on neuropsychological testing. A group of 64 illiterate normal subjects was selected in the Mexican Republic. Their performance was compared with two barely schooled control groups (1-2 and 3-4 years of schooling). The subjects' ages ranged from 16 to 85 years. In the second analysis, the illiterate subjects were further matched by age and sex with individuals with 1 to 4, 5 to 9, and 10 to 19 years of formal education. The Spanish version of the NEUROPSI neuropsychological test battery (Ostrosky, Ardila, & Rosselli, 1997) was used. Results indicated a significant educational effect on most of the tests. Largest educational effect was noted in constructional abilities (copying of a figure), language (comprehension), phonological verbal fluency, and conceptual functions (similarities, calculation abilities, and sequences). Aging effect was noted in visuoperceptual (visual detection) and memory scores. In the first subject sample, it was evident that, despite using such limited educational range (from 0-4 years of formal education), and such a wide age range (from 16-85 years), schooling represented a stronger variable than age. It is proposed that education effect on neuropsychological test performance represents a negatively accelerated curve, tending to a plateau.